Monday, August 20, 2018

Abbey Rader West Coast Quartet - Second Gathering (ABRAY Productions, 2018)

Melding by bebop, loft jazz, and free improvisation, percussionist Abbey Rader has played and taught around the world, combining his love of Buddhist philosophy and music to create a mindful and resolute form of modern music. On this album he is joined by Peter Kuhn on clarinet and bass clarinet, Kyle Motl on bass and Drew Ceccato on soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones. "Slidin' In and Out" has open sounding bass and drums with fluttering bass clarinet and saxophone. The music is closely played and gradual in its development, with crisp rhythm and strong reed engagement, building a collective improvisation that is successful in carving space and time in an impressive manner. The music waxes and wanes, ebbing to and fro in terms of complexity and intensity, adding muscular bowed and plucked bass, which sounds great in this context by adding further texture to the music, as the reed instruments duck and weave through the air. "Uncovering the Jewel in the Lotus" has an abstract opening for bass and percussion, with the horns gradually entering the improvisation and adding to the depth and breadth of the performance. Bowed bass drones and long tones of saxophone and clarinet create an atmospheric and restless setting, bubbling and simmering in constant motion. The pace of the music picks up toward the end, with the volume rising and falling to suit the music and creating a powerful dialogue. The longest track on the album, "If You Can Light It, It Will Burn," is quite a journey. The reeds swirl around each other like stunt pilots, while engaging with taut bass and lashing percussion. The music truly does catch fire, with a turbulent collective improvisation creating wildly divergent textures and hues. Their unfettered playing is joy inducing, and the complex and dynamic nature of the music leads to a spirit of inquiry into the core of music itself, charting an independent course of thought and feeling. "Finding the Still Point" incorporates nimble bass playing at its core, with wide ranging and subtle percussion, giving the music a mysterious and floating air as the reed instruments gradually enter the arena. The music develops gradations of texture and volume, creating and ominous and emotional soundscape that blends the musicians instruments in unique way. The closing track, "Till Next Time," blends exciting drumming with raw bass playing and excellent interweaving of soprano saxophone and clarinet. This all takes place at high speed, with the musicians gleefully embracing each other through the pure pleasure of creating in the moment. The slogan on Abbey Rader's bandcamp page sums up his music and approach quite clearly: "You must empty your mind to hear and interplay spontaneously with the musicians, and allow the music to come through you." They live up to that creed to the fullest extent on this fine and memorable album. Second Gathering -

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